GRANDAD Mervyn Brooker sits down to check his emails in the hope that a few replies have landed in his inbox.
But the 68-year-old isn’t hoping for a letter from his grandchildren or an update from an old friend but rather a response to the dozens of jobs he’s applied for.
It’s not something retired Mervyn, who is married to Lyn 62, who has pancreatic cancer, ever expected to be doing after working full-time for 51 years.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Mervyn says: “Going back to work is the only way I can pay the bills and make the pension stretch for myself and the Mrs.
“There are no luxury holidays waiting for us in retirement, instead I will be grafting until the grave.
“There is simply no way we can survive without me working and bringing in extra cash.
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“Earning even an extra tenner a week means we don't choose between heating or eating.”
Relying on state pension
Mervyn gets £827 a month from his state pension but he says it’s simply not enough for them to survive despite living frugally his entire life.
“It's terrifying that the cost of living crisis, rising food prices and electricity costs have meant decades of our frugality is wiped away,” he says.
“I am applying for jobs no matter how small to bring in the precious few extra pounds and pennies.
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“Those few extra pounds mean we can buy the ‘nice tea bags’ or simply pay the bills and not worry and lie awake at night in retirement.
“My wife and I don't want much. I am willing to do whatever I can. We are not complaining. We are scared.”
I'll do any job I can
Mervyn, a former caterer and hairdresser makes cakes and biscuits and sells them locally, he does OAP discounted haircuts and takes DIY jobs as well as admin jobs.
“I do acting and modelling too if I can afford to get to the audition,” he says.
“I’m applying for fill-in cook jobs or anything I can get.
“This week I applied for a Father Christmas job at £15 an hour at a shopping centre.”
Mervyn is just one of the nearly 900,000 Britons over 70 who are heading back to work or staying longer in part- or full-time work since the pandemic and cost of living crisis, a report has revealed.
The Office of National Statistics reveals there are now more people aged 50 and older in work or looking for work than before the pandemic hit.
For Mervyn, returning to work is the only alternative to ending up homeless.
Mervyn & his family risk homelessness
“The reality is if i didn't do some part-time jobs and work we couldn't pay the bills,” he says.
“Each week we are left with around £10 for emergencies but I am scared to even treat myself to a chocolate bar.
“Retirement feels impossible.”
Mervyn left school in1969 aged 15 and started a hairdressing apprenticeship immediately.
He met Lyn, 62 a former nursery practitioner, when she was 16 and he was 18 years old and the pair married in 1977.
In 1983 Mervyn started work cooking and managing a guest house and the couple welcomed their daughter Charlotte,33, a carer, in March 1990
When Mervyn retired in 2021 he was earning around £1,100 a month and Lyn, who was then also working, brought in a second wage of £1000.
The couple's pension is being eaten up
He adds: “I had a private pension from working as a cook in a school.
“It was £8,500 which we had to cash in to buy a car and it’s already been eaten up from paying the bills.”
Mervyn and Lyn paid £72,000 for their three bedroom house in 2001.
Two years ago the couple took out a £60,000 Lifetime mortgage equity release on their home .
“It means the longer we live the less our daughter will inherit due to the interest rates,” he says.
“We couldn't afford to pay a mortgage as OAPs so this means after we die our daughter will have to sell the house and pay off the loan.
“It's the only way we could think of to survive and keep a roof over our heads in retirement.”
The cost of living crisis has hit them hard
But what Mervyn and Lyn didn't factor in was the skyrocketing cost of living crisis.
“In two years our monthly costs have ballooned by 300%,” he says.
Then this year the family faced another blow when Lyn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with her daughter and Mervyn acting as her carers.
“Lyn is fighting hard but is very poorly undergoing chemotherapy,” Mervyn says.
“She is not old enough to get a pension and gets PIP which is £125 a week.
“My work has to fit around caring for her when Charlotte is not available.”
In total Mervyn and Lyn survive on £1,350 a month.
They spend £200 a month on groceries, their equity release payments as part of the lifetime mortgage are £500 a month. Their gas and electric bill is £160 a month, petrol costs £120,.
After paying the water bill, internet and phone bill the couple are left with no money or in recent months short £200 a month due to rising costs.
“I worked full time all my life and I have saved and I don't expect to be bailed out,” he says.
“I feel like I have failed. It’s why I have to unretire in some capacity but it’s tricky to find a role I can do.
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“Most of the full-time jobs for older people are at supermarkets and I struggle to stand for longer than five hours.
“So many of my OAP mates are in the same situation, I worry about my wife being so ill and I don’t know what the solution is.”
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